This has become an annual event for the Gonzos for about 8 years. I think it is one of the sure signs of spring. You know Bud's French Fry Truck, robins, tulips poking their head out of the ground, the ice coming out of the lake, and Kenduskeag.
We actually used to leave Halifax early on the Friday morning and get to Bangor at noonish leaving time to do a run of the last 6 miles of the river, which is the white water part anyway. This year we left on Thursday afternoon leaving us time to go to the annual Old Town Canoe Sale on Friday morning. The deals didn't seem as good as previous years but still Greg Vail managed to pick up a pretty good kayak and David McCurdy got the Appalachian he was looking for.
This year, I had no intention of paddling but still wanted to make it down. For those who haven't had the pleasure, it is an amazing event. They actually have upwards of 500 to 600 boats of all descriptions and more than a thousand paddlers. The race starts in the small town of Kenduskeag under a bridge that might be 20 metres long.
They start 5 boats every minute, which means you have lots of room and for most of us lots of boats in front and behind.
I say "for most of us", because this year, the 4 Stroke, a Bernie Levy Designed and built canoe, was #3 and started first with 4 other canoes. Bernie is the "Captain" of this canoe and has his son Ben in the bow and son-in-law Darren just in front of him. This left one open spot so after interviewing all the eligible paddlers, they picked up Pat McGraw a young runner/adventure racing kind of guy. This could be a formidable team. It was a treat to watch them go under the bridge and lead going into the first turn about 150 metres down the river. Alas it was not to be, as they finished about 6 minutes behind the first canoe (a 6 person) in a time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.
As they were 4 paddlers, one in Barrington and one in Moncton, they did not get much time on the water in preparation so that surely affected their time. I am sure with some practice, they just might got close to the leaders.
The next boat to start in our little group was Trevor MacLean. He was about # 125 but paddling a flat water racing Kayak. Now we should mention that Trevor has won this race on at least a couple of occasions in the past so he sort of attracts a bit of press. They are phoning him as he drives down on Friday morning and interviewing him before the race. Man it really is a sight to see him accelerate off the start line and pull away from his competition. The water level was real low this year and Trevor won in a time of 2 hours and 7 minutes, well off his Personal Best of less that 2 hours. He didn't catch the 4 Stroke but because he started more than 20 minutes behind he had a faster time.
Now each year we throw this race out to other paddlers in the province trying to convince them of the fun we have, and this year we attracted a newbee in Allan Billard. I offered up my partner from last year, Wally Woodbury, to go with Allan, but circumstances were not to be and at the last moment I had to jump in to ensure that Allan could get his ride in.
Well not having done much paddling and/or cardio work (new hip and all), we were not sure what to expect. I guess it is kinda fun not going in with any great aspirations and just going with the flow. As we started # 234, the two Bruces (Duffy and Murphy) paddling kayaks, had about a 20 minute head start, so the initial goal is to pass as many boats as possible. Just before Six Mile Falls we met the Sun God and by then had passed about 120 boats. We portaged the falls and managed to pass the only boat the had passed us as they had upset. Of course they got us back about 10 minutes later.
We did upset at what we call "Thunder Hole" and the locals call "Shopping Cart Falls" The water level had changed from the previous day and we didn't quite hit it on, but that short swim surely didn't detract from the day as it happens about 5 minutes from the finish line. We finished in a time of 2 hours and about 46 minutes. I think only 2 boats passed us in the whole race and as we pulled up to get out, we saw Dipper pulling out also. We can conclude his time was about 3 hours and Sun God about 5 minutes longer. The last boat to leave the start was Greg Vail and his new partner Jim, a young engineer from Greg's work. Now this year, for the first time, Greg actually paddled the day before to try out the river. They dunked in practice but stayed up for the whole race finishing in a time of just over 4 hours. Jim not being of the tough grizzled Gonzo Strain yet, complained for the rest of the day about how he hurt. He probably thought he was going with a bunch of old farts.
Now you will notice that all times are not exact. They had huge problems with the computer timing and are trying (A week later) to put the results together by hand. They also had problems with the start so it might take a bit of time. It was a low water day, so no one set PBs anyway. We know where we finished and it really doesn't matter.
Now I would be remiss if I didn't mention our crew of drivers that ensured we had cars at the finish and official race photographs. They were Ross (Scrounger) Mitchell, Steve Rand, David MacCurdy and for a breath of fresh air, Wendy Foote. I just can't imagine what a problem it would be trying to get back to the start to get our vehicles at the end of a rather tiring race.
I am sure everyone had a great time and we left Bangor early Sunday morning (or maybe not so early for some) and arrived home between 2 in the afternoon and six at night.